India-UAE relations have emerged stronger from the pandemic: Envoy Dr. Al Banna

Dubai - Planeloads of medical supplies were sent from UAE to India as part of govt and private initiatives.


Michal Michelle Divon

Published: Thu 27 May 2021, 4:13 AM

Dr. Ahmed Al Banna, the UAE Ambassador to India, is hopeful that India-UAE travel restrictions would be lifted after June 14.

However, he cautioned that it would depend on the prevailing Covid-19 situation in India and its government's bid to get a handle over reining in the raging contagion.

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Dr. Al Banna made the remark during an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times.

The bilateral ties with India have further strengthened amid the Covid pandemic, the envoy said.

“There was more coordination, exchange of experts, doctors and groups of medical teams… we have imported drugs in bulk from India that were needed for our frontline workers, who are tirelessly battling the pandemic,” said Dr. Al Banna.

Planeloads of medical supplies were sent from the UAE to India as part of the government and private initiatives. The country’s landmarks were lit up in solidarity with the Indian tri-colour, underscoring the further strengthening of bilateral ties in the backdrop of the pandemic.

“There have been plenty of exports of medicines and medical equipment such as liquid medical oxygen cylinders and ventilators to support India’s healthcare system that has been stretched to its limits because of the viral outbreak,” the diplomat said.

Passenger entry from India to the UAE was suspended on April 24 amid a deadly second wave, with only certain categories allowed to still fly into the country, leaving many expats stranded. The exempted categories include members of diplomatic missions, golden visa holders, UAE nationals, and passengers exempted and/or granted permission to enter by the UAE authorities.

Emirates recently stated that the suspension has been extended until at least June 14.

The envoy held out hope with a rider about the resumption of the flights after June 14.

He erred on the side of caution and maintained that the resumption of flights would largely depend on how the Indian government managed to rein in the spread of the contagion after the June 14 deadline expired.

“Prior to the viral outbreak, there were 1,068 weekly flights between India and the UAE. Over 50 per cent of Indians, who travel abroad, used our airports in pre-Covid-19 pandemic times,” said Dr. Al Banna.

Bilateral trade has been consolidated through the years and now stands at $60 billion. India has emerged as the UAE’s second-largest trading partner. The UAE is India’s third-largest trading partner.

“Although India has temporarily suspended its civil aviation operations, the cargo movement between the UAE and India never stopped. The relationship got stronger, [and] if we look at the last wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, it encouraged a lot of business houses and business people to look at the available opportunities in the UAE,” Dr. Al Banna said.

The UAE has a strategic advantage, as it is a gateway to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and as a result, several Indian conglomerates are trying to make the country a base in their lofty expansion plans.

“There are so many sectors where our interests intersect with India’s. Oil and gas are at the core, but the opportunities are also endless in renewable energy, food security, technology, and innovation,” the envoy signed off on an optimistic note.

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